Meadowlands Used Cars: What to Look for in a Used Car

September 12th, 2017 by

You’ve heard of the stories: your friend purchased a car that repeatedly breaks down and requires weekly trips to the mechanic. Or the car petered out after only driving it for a year despite a “supposedly low odometer.” To spare you the dread of purchasing a car with a short lifespan and racking up stacks of auto bills, Meadowlands Used Cars tells you what you need to look for when buying a used car, from high gas mileage and clean title to low odometer reading and good safety and reliability, among others. Read on to find out how you can buy a good used car that will last you for years to come.

High Gas Mileage

Let’s face it, gas is expensive. According to AAA Gas Prices, the national average cost of gas is approximately $2.55 (regular), $2.84 (mid-grade), $3.08 (premium), and $2.84 (diesel).

Depending on where you live, these figures may be higher or lower. In New Jersey, for instance, the current average cost of gas is $2.59 for regular, $2.91 for mid-grade, and $3.08 for premium. Factor in time spent commuting per week, and you are looking at a monthly gas cost in the several hundreds.

To lower that figure, you need a used car with a good MPG (miles per gallon). The car should have a high city MPG and highway MPG. You should expect to see the city MPG lower than the highway MPG, given how many more stops your vehicle makes off the freeway than on it. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, your highway MGP could be as much as double your city MPG.

Used Hybrids are a Great Option

Normally because hybrid cars flip between gas and electricity, hybrid car owners should expect to fill up less often. When looking for cars, it is not uncommon to find that hybrids top the list as the cars with the highest MPGs. If you can afford a used hybrid car, gas-wise, it may be worth it.

Good Vehicle History Report

While a used car may have a good MPG, it doesn’t do any good if the car has an accident-ridden past. When purchasing a used car, we recommend to only look at those with a solid vehicle history report.

One to Two Past Owners

A good vehicle history report will show that the car has only had 1-2 previous owners. If you notice the car has been purchased and sold multiple times throughout the years, with the number of past owners in the 3s and 4s, we recommend to bypass it. There obviously is a reason why the car is being sold and resold in a short amount of time (i.e. mechanical issues, lemon, damage, etc.).

No Accidents, Flood, or Fire Damage

The vehicle history report will also show if the car has any accidents, flooding, or fire damage in its past. A good vehicle history report will show that the car has a clean record. If you do see that the car has been involved in an accident, we recommend that you ask the dealer or private party if they can provide you with more information about that, especially if the report is general. A slight hit on the bumper may not be any reason to bypass the car, but a side collision is reason enough to look at other used cars.

It Was Serviced Regularly

Some vehicle history reports show where and when the car was serviced. You should expect to see an oil change and tire rotation every couple of months. This is a sign that the vehicle has been well taken care of and no car problems should unexpectedly come up in the near future. While a spotty service record isn’t a deal breaker (especially if the report shows the used car doesn’t have an accident or fire or flood damaged history), you should take the car for an inspection at a reliable auto shop.

Know the Difference

Also, while the vehicle should show a consistent service record, if you notice a trend where the vehicle was taken to the mechanic every other week, you may be about to purchase a lemon. However, if the car is older and over 36,000 miles, occasionally seeing maintenance records other than an oil change and tire rotation isn’t uncommon.

Clean Title

Used cars with clean titles haven’t been in an accident or experienced flood or fire damage. As the name suggests, they are “clean.” We recommend that you look for a used car with a clean title, as you stand a better chance of not encountering car troubles and requiring maintenance assistance.

Other Car Titles You May See on the Vehicle History Report, and What They Mean

Know that car titles differ from state to state. In general, car titles include clean, salvage, lemon, and flood (however there are others). As mentioned, a clean title indicates that the car hasn’t been in an accident or received flood or fire damage.

Salvage Title

A salvage title reveals that the car does have vehicle damages and a high repair cost (that may exceed the car’s value); unlike a clean titled car, the salvage car has been involved in an accident.

Lemon Title

A lemon title implies that the car has undergone multiple trips to the mechanic, and has serious mechanical flaws where routine (possibly weekly) auto body trips are to be expected.

Flood Title

A flood title indicates that the car weathered a hurricane or thunderstorm, and most likely has sustained flood damage.

To Buy a Non-Clean Title or Not

As a rule of thumb, for safety and reliability reasons, we recommend that you stick to purchasing used cars with a clean title. However, know that some salvages are drivable, and may not have any issues in the future. Still, when you do buy a salvaged car, you are rolling the dice.

Be Wary of Title Washing

The reality is, a car with a clean title may not be clean. Since title statuses vary by state, some titles may not be transferred when the car passes state lines. Meaning, a car with a non-clean title could transfer to another state as a clean-titled car. Some questionable individuals purposely title wash so that they get more for the car. While not all cars that cross state lines with a clean title are shady, it doesn’t hurt to talk to the seller about your concerns.

Low Odometer Reading

We recommend that you look for a used car with a low odometer reading. This indicates that the car hasn’t been driven much and received much wear and tear. Meaning, the chances of it needing mechanical work in the near future is low.

Be Wary of Odometer Rolling

Scammers will “roll back” the odometer to make it look like the car is newer that what it really is. That way, like with title washing, the car can sell for more. Unfortunately, the new car owner may find himself/herself paying off a high stack of auto bills from regularly trips to the mechanic.

Safety and Reliability

The car should be safe and reliable. Signs that show this include no dents, cracked windows, chipped paint, dents, worn driver’s seat, unusual odor, squeaky engine, among others. Be sure to buy models with a good reliability record. According to Consumer Reports, Toyota (along with Lexus) tops their list as the most reliable car brand.

Car Isn’t Recalled and All its Parts Have Been Updated

Meadowlands Used Cars recommends that you stick to used cars that aren’t recalled. And that all of the recalled auto parts have been replaced and updated. (To check if the car has been recalled, go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website and search the car by its vehicle identification number (VPN).)

Final Thoughts About Used Cars: Dealer or Private Party?

At the end of the day, you want a used car that’s safe and reliable, has a high gas mileage and low odometer reading, and shows a good auto history with a clean title and regular service records.

You can purchase a used car from a dealership or private party, however a dealership offers certain advantages. Since dealerships must undergo more regulation requirements and provide a Buyer’s Guide, car buyers will know what they are paying for. Dealerships also offer warranty and repair services, which you may have access to depending on the used car you buy.

Summary

• With gas being expensive, it’s important to purchase a used car with a high gas mileage
• Also, the car should have a good vehicle history report (one to two past owners, no accidents, floods, or fire damage, and clean title)
• You should be wary of title washing and odometer rolling—scams used to get more for the car
• The used car should be safe and reliable, not recalled; all of the recalled auto parts should be replaced and updated, if that’s the case
• Meadowlands Used Cars advices that you choose a dealership over a private party since the dealership offers more services and adheres to more regulation

Contact East Coast Toyota for any questions about purchasing a used car!

[1] AAA: Gas Prices

[2] AAA: New Jersey Average Gas Prices

[3] Consumer Reports: Best MPG Cars for City & Highway Commutes

[4] Consumer Report: CR’s Car Reliability Survey Reveals Shuffles In Brand and Model Rankings

Posted in Used Cars